You’re a college student back in 1984, in the months before Star Trek III: The Search for Spock will open in theaters nationwide. You attend a Star Trek convention in New York City, hoping to snag Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry for an interview. You luck out first by securing 15 minutes of talk time with Majel Barrett-Roddenberry. And then you meet the man and introduce yourself and ask if he’ll chat with you for your college paper. Roddenberry, impressed with your moxie but running behind schedule, says Yes and No simultaneously. He can’t talk now, but promises he will do it by phone with you next week. Roddenberry, a burly man with a disarming smile, leans in and gives you very, very specific instructions: take this business card, call his assistant on Monday, and she will arrange it.
This all happened, for real, to that Trek fan/budding journalist, Ian Spelling, who provided StarTrek.com with the photo of Roddenberry’s business card. Sure enough, Monday rolls around, but when Spelling returns to his dorm there’s a note on the door from one of his roommates. It reads: “Gene Roddenberry called. He apologizes, but a director friend of his died and he has to go to the funeral today. Call him at his home tomorrow at 2 PST, and here’s his number.” To put this in perspective, Roddenberry did not have Spelling’s phone number. His assistant called the school’s information desk, tracked down Spelling’s suite and phone number and Roddenberry called personally to reschedule the interview.
The next day, Roddenberry picks up the phone at the appointed time, but insists that he phone back Spelling, lest he or his school paper have to pay for what, at the time, is a pricey long-distance call. The two spend more than an hour talking and, at the end, Roddenberry says he so enjoyed the experience that he wanted to talk again tomorrow, which they did.
“It was an amazing experience,” Spelling told StarTrek.com. “I called him Mr. Roddenberry, and he insisted I call him Gene, and his answers were everything you’d expect: direct, from-the-heart, and the views of both a dreamer and a pragmatist. In addition to Majel and Gene, I ended up interviewing many of the Trek actors — George Takei, Walter Koenig, Mark Lenard, Jimmy Doohan — at conventions, and it’s what led me to my career as a journalist. I ended up writing for Starlog, for more than 25 years, and the official Star Trek magazines, and also covering the entertainment business in general. But it all really started with Gene handing me that business card.”
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